State Watch

Texas rabbi says he escaped after throwing chair at hostage-taker

The Texas rabbi who was held hostage with three congregants at his synagogue on Saturday said he escaped after throwing a chair at the hostage-taker.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, told “CBS Mornings” on Monday that things “didn’t look good” or “sound good” in the last hour of the standoff because the hostage-taker “wasn’t getting what he wanted.” He said he and the remaining hostages were “terrified.”

Cytron-Walker said that once he saw a good opportunity for the three remaining hostages to escape, he threw a chair at the gunman and ran for the exit.

“When I saw an opportunity where he wasn’t in a good position I asked, made sure that the two gentlemen who were still with me, that they were, that they were ready to go, the exit wasn’t too far away. I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed for the door, and all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired,” Cytron-Walker said.

One of the congregants held hostage had been released prior to the rabbi and other two fleeing. 

In an earlier statement, Cytron-Walker said security courses his congregation participated in over the years prepared him to act and flee during Saturday’s incident.

“We are alive because of that education,” the rabbi said, pointing to courses from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network.

The hostage-taker, later identified as British national Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was killed after the hostages had fled the synagogue following the hours-long standoff.

Matthew DeSarno, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, said Akram appears to be the only individual involved in the hostage-taking. On Sunday night, however, British police arrested two teenagers in connection to the ongoing investigation.

The situation started Saturday morning. Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings” that the hostage-taker knocked on the door of the synagogue, which made him think that the man was in need of shelter. The rabbi let him inside and made him a cup of tea.

As the two started talking, Cytron-Walker said some parts of the man’s story “didn’t quite add up,” which made him “a little bit curious,” but he said such details were “not necessarily an uncommon thing.”

When they were praying, however, the rabbi said had his back towards the man — following a Jewish tradition that individuals face in the direction of Jerusalem when praying — and eventually heard a click, which was from his gun.

None of the hostages were physically injured during the standoff, but they were “threatened the entire time,” according to Cytron-Walker.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force is now investigating the hostage situation, according to the FBI. The bureau said the incident was “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

“We never lose sight of the threat extremists pose to the Jewish community and to other religious, racial, and ethnic groups,” the FBI added.

President Biden on Sunday said the hostage-taking was an “act of terror.”

Tags Congregation Beth Israel Joe Biden Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker

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